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The World Is Getting Smaller and Flatter

Hector H. Hernandez

The world is getting smaller and flatter. You can get to and from more places faster than ever before. The internet, cellular phone, and desktop computer accelerated and revolutionized the way the world collaborates and conducts business through global communication and intellectual cooperation. It is no longer safe or sound for companies, nations, or any other entity to continue the practice of isolationism or protectionism. Everywhere you turn, open, academic, and industrial collaboration is being praised as the new global equalizer. The new possibilities for local organizations in the most remote areas to enter the global market are seen as the opportunities that could bring financial and social equality to previously inaccessible markets.

The world is finally seeing things the MIT way. MIT has long been a proponent of open collaboration and has purposely made choices that have propelled it to the forefront of international educational and industrial partnerships. Programs such as MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives, OpenCourseWare, MIT Technology and Development Program, the Singapore-MIT Alliance, the Cambridge-MIT Institute, and the Center for International Studies exist because MIT believes that it has a responsibility to disseminate knowledge.

Just this week, MIT announced another new global initiative. The founding of the Global Enterprise for Micro-Mechanics and Molecular Medicine was celebrated in MIT, Thailand, and Singapore as a milestone of global collaboration between time zones, academics, governments, and members of industry. In the current climate of international collaboration, MIT can expect to expand its tradition of partnerships with academic and industrial institutions from around the world. There is no doubt that the institutionalization of such partnerships will be a source of intellectual and capital gain for the Institute — but at what price? As more institutions and countries vie for the validity, which the MIT stamp of approval brings, the Institute needs to question the cost of these collaborations. I am not referring to the intellectual costs: the strain and stress placed on the community when its leading minds are scattered across the globe is a topic for another time.

I am referring to the stamp of approval that the MIT alliance lends to social programs. Any organization that enters into a partnership with MIT makes a commitment to high standards in research and development. But what about the commitment to the community which these organizations serve? Do they treat their constituents with respect and acceptance? MIT should expect organizations that it collaborates with to subscribe to the same non-discriminatory policies that the Institute practices. Every member of the MIT community has the freedom and the pleasure to agree or disagree with the general policies and administration of the Institute. Shouldn’t the community members of our intellectual partners have those same liberties?

Currently there are collaborations and partnerships with other organizations and countries in which certain constituents of the MIT community cannot and will not be allowed to participate. If you are female, homosexual, or transgendered, you cannot, on fear of your life at times, participate in certain collaborations.

MIT currently practices this double standard. Every student group, academic department, and facilities group adheres to the non-discrimination policy of MIT. The community has fought for many years to assure that the Institute is a safe and enriching haven for each of the diverse groups which form the members of the community. That is every group except for one, the ROTC.

The ROTC has played a key role in shaping young minds at MIT. However, it has not been very inclusive. The discriminatory policy of the exclusion of homosexuals from the organizations, which are bound to defend our country, is a lack of appreciation for the contributions of a segment of our population. MIT acknowledges and accepts the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that was implemented under President Clinton. The 2005 Report of the ROTC Implementation from the Chancellor’s Office, states that the Institute will make sure that any student “involuntarily separated from the ROTC because they are gay or lesbian, would not suffer financial consequences associated with a loss of the military scholarship.” That the Institute continues to acknowledge and accept the ROTC and its discriminatory recruitment policies on campus is unjustified.

How can we expect our current or new partners to take seriously the professed dedication of the Institute to treating all of the MIT community with dignity, respect, and acceptance? How can we complain if a member of our community is discriminated against while on a collaborative mission with one of our many partners if we allow these practices to occur in our backyard?

The glossy, regurgitated reports from the Chancellor’s Office are not acceptable explanations as to why MIT continues to turn its head and look the other way on the existence of the ROTC offices on campus. With the current trends and mandates being dictated from the White House, MIT needs to assess the inclusion of the ROTC as a student group on campus. MIT needs to reconsider how it plans to continue to live with the double standards of a professed non-discriminatory community and the armed forces discriminatory policy.